Is First-Gen an Identity? How First-Generation College Students Make Meaning of Institutional and Familial Constructions of Self

Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice / March 2020

college grad and parents

Institutions increasingly use first-generation categorizations to provide support to students. In this study, we sought to understand how students make meaning of their first-generation status by conducting a series of focus groups with 54 participants. Our findings reveal that students saw first-generation status as an organizational and familial identity rather than social identities. This status was connected to alterity and social distance that was most salient in comparison to continuing-generation peers. Our recommendations include reexamining the role of first-generation-specific programming on campus, creating opportunities for meaning-making, supporting students within changing family dynamics, and exploring the interaction between first-generation status and other marginalized identities.